Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is a food handler’s certificate?
  2. What type of food certificate do I need?
  3. How long does a food handlers card last?
  4. What should I study to pass the food handler’s test?
  5. Where can I take the food handler’s test?
  6. Who enforces food safety regulations?
  7. How much does a food handler’s permit cost?
  8. When should I take the food handler’s exam?



What is a food handler’s certificate?

Food handler’s certificate, also referred to as food handler’s card, permit, license, is a proof demonstrating knowledge of safe food handling, preparation, cooking, and storage to reduce the risk of foodborne illness. You obtain a food handler’s certificate once you pass an exam that proves your understanding of food safety fundamentals.


What type of food certificate do I need?

There are two food safety certification types: Food Handler’s Certification and Food Manager Certification. Food Handler’s Certification is designed to demonstrate food safety fundamentals, and the exam can be administered through online courses in some states. While not every state requires restaurant employees to take the test, the employees are encouraged to become certified food handlers. Food Manager Certification is a more comprehensive test, and at least one employee or owner must pass the exam if the establishment prepares or serves unpackaged food. 

If you are in one of the seven states listed below, all food service employees are required to pass the Food Handlers Certification Exam:



How long does a food handler’s card last?

Food handler’s card is generally valid 3 to 5 years depending on the state food handling laws. Food safety laws are in place to ensure restaurant professionals receive education to prevent foodborne illness outbreaks. As such, certain states require food handlers and restaurant employees to retake the certification test periodically. To find out more, visit food safety regulation by state section.



What should I study to pass the food handler’s test?

Food handling exams are designed to test knowledge of health and safety procedures in handling food. Topics for the exams includes food hazards (biological, physical, chemical), personal hygiene practices, cleaning and sanitizing processes, temperature and time control, and many more to train food handlers to prevent foodborne illness and keep customers safe. Food handler study guide can help restaurant employees prepare for the test day!



Where can I take the food handler’s test?

Food Manager Certification

breakfast buffet containing eggs and potatosThe following providers are accredited providers for the food manager certification: Certifying Board from Dietary Managers, Prometric, National Registry for Food Safety Professionals, ServSafe (National Restaurant Association).

Food Handler’s Certification

Employees can take the food handler’s certification from the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) accredited courses. Before signing up for a class and taking the exam, check with the state or local health department to ensure you are taking an ANSI accredited course and exam. To test your knowledge of best food handling practices, take a free practice food safety test.



Who enforces food safety regulations?

Each state or local health department is responsible for enforcing food safety regulations. Responsibilities include ensuring restaurants and other food facilities meet the food safety and handling standards. These responsibilities include inspecting restaurants on a yearly basis, ensuring restaurants carry valid food handler’s cards, and investigating health related issues at restaurants in order to safeguard public health.



How much does a food handler’s permit cost?

In order to obtain a food handler’s permit, you must pass a certification test approved by the state you work in. Although most states do not require employers to pay for the employee’s exam, employees are encouraged to check with the employer. In addition, state laws in certain states stipulate in-class and online training classes are competitive to ensure affordability. The combined cost of the food handler’s card and the certification test can range from $10 to $30 depending on the state whereas food manager certification can cost between $30 to $60. Prices also depend on whether the test is taken online or onsite with a proctor.



When should I take the food handler’s exam?

For states that require Food Handler’s Certification or Food Manager Certification, the number of days before obtaining a food handlers card is decided by each state’s department of health and food safety. Check with the state or local health authority to ensure you are abiding the food handling regulations. However, employees typically have 30 days from the day of hire to become a certified food handler.


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